Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire, 2012
Thanks to ARCycling Blog for this ARC - sorry it took me so long!
Parker used to have a pretty perfect life until her mom came out. Now her church has made Parker and her family outsiders and the rumors that Parker must be a lesbian too started flying. So she quit varsity softball, changed the way she dressed, and kisses plenty of boys so no one can question that she likes guys. But things get even more complicated when the cute new assistant baseball coach flirts right back, meanwhile she starts to think of a guy she's always competed against before in a whole new light.
This was a really difficult read for me, if I'm honest. It was complicated for a few reasons, but I'll start with the things I liked. I liked Parker and her complicated emotions about her family and her friends and her church. I liked her relationship with her best friend Drew, too, and how it felt so realistic. Then there's Corndog, another guy on the baseball team who Parker has spent her whole life competing against for valedictorian (and she won). I really enjoyed how Kenneally had him grow, starting off as just one of the guys and emerging as this fantastic friend and someone I was truly rooting for - he was probably my favorite character.
But then there was the whole situation with the assistant coach, Brian. I was disgusted to the point of literally nearly throwing up. This story was a kind of trigger for me, taking me back to some particularly difficult things it took me a very long time to finally deal with, and I wasn't expecting it based on the blurb. He's 23 working in a high school, and Parker is only 17. He's the adult, and as a 24 year old educator myself who works with people Parker's age every day, I was just horrified and incredibly uncomfortable. Did he have to be a teacher? I think maybe I could have handled it better if he was just an older guy, but the fact that he was an educator made it even worse (as if the situation weren't bad enough already). As a teacher and librarian, I fight every day to make sure my students know I'm someone they can trust, and Brian is just evil. There were multiple times that I thought I was going to have to stop reading and give up on this book because I wasn't sure I could make it. There was also the behavior of the people from Parker's church, which was horrible but also fairly realistic. This did, however, lead to the novel feeling a bit preachy at times.
Overall, I can say that I like Kenneally's writing style and I look forward to reading more of her books (this was the first of hers I've been able to get my hands on). However, I'm not sure how readily I'd recommend this particular book to my students or teens for fear of them being triggered the same way I was.
Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.
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